Historic Building Details

HB Ref No:

Extent of Listing:

Date of Construction:
1880 - 1899

Address :
Guildhall Shipquay Place Londonderry County Londonderry BT48 6DQ


Survey 2:

Date of Listing:

Date of De-listing:

Current Use:
Town Hall

Former Use
Town Hall

Conservation Area:

Industrial Archaeology:





OS Map No:

IG Ref:
C4360 1689

Owner Category

Exterior Description And Setting

Two-storey detached Victorian town hall, neo-Gothic-style with clock tower to South-East corner, built 1887, and rebuilt 1912. Restoration and internal alterations completed 2013. Principal elevation has a gabled front flanked by narrow octagonal turrets. Five-stage stone clock tower to the South-East corner, with a four-faced clock, belfry, principal entrance to base, paired lancet windows, corner pinnacles and a conical copper clad roof. Built of un-coursed quarry-faced block-and-sneck Barony Glen sandstone with Dunfries sandstone ashlar dressings; the South elevation contains elaborate carved shields and ogee lancet window panels; oriel bay window within elaborate tracery window with ornate stained glass. Decorative carved lion atop apex. Symmetrical fenestration to West elevation with large tracery window at first floor to North-end gable, above coupled 1/1 sliding sash windows to ground floor and mezzanine. Five large first floor tracery windows with cusped pointed arch heads with sill-course and head-course with hood mould. Five aligned smaller windows to ground floor with string course and quatrefoils above. Castellated door case to South-end with decorative console brackets and six-panelled oak double doors. Irregular fenestration to North elevation overlooking the River Foyle, secondary entrance off centre with pointed arch opening; coupled double doors to ground floor with coupled 1/1 sliding sash windows to mezzanine, three tracery windows with cusped pointed arch heads with sill course to east side of north elevation at ground floor with coupled and single blind trefoil-arch headed windows with stone mullion and hood mould. Three arcaded tracery windows with cusped pointed arched heads, chamfered reveals with angle roll, hood mould and label heads. Plain stone balcony below arcaded windows with decorative console brackets and foliated string course. Elevation flanked by two large stone chimneys with chamfered corners and three terracotta pots above ashlar Barony Glen sandstone parapet. The East elevation is irregular, containing the base of the clock tower to the South-end and the gable to the North-end, in between is a collection of motifs including a bartizan, a corbelled oriel, a canted bay with hipped roof, octagonal stair tower capped with a copper cupola, variations of tracery windows and a mullioned bow. Castellation to sections of parapet with large decorative chimney set back with two clay pots. Slated pitched roof over North-South block with perpendicular pitched roof over East-West block overlooking the river. Bangor blue slates with terracotta decorative ridge tiles to main roofs with lead flat roof behind parapet to East elevation; copper cupola to octagonal tower to East elevation along with copper clad conical roof to clock tower. Cast-iron rainwater goods painted throughout with decorative hoppers. Setting: Located on an island site outside the city walls, principal elevation faces South onto the City Walls at Shipquay Place, bordered by Guildhall Street, Whittaker Street and Harbour Square, overlooking the River Foyle. Materials: Roof Replacement Bangor Blue Slate RWG Cast Iron. Decorated square downpipes. Walling Barony Glen Sandstone Windows: Plate tracery stained glass/cathedral squares


Ferguson, John Guy Robinson, M A Consarc

Historical Information

Londonderry’s Tudoresque town hall, the Guildhall, was originally constructed in 1887-90, however following a fire in 1908, the Guildhall was almost completely reconstructed in 1909-12. Prior to the construction of the first Guildhall in the late-Victorian period, the local town hall was located in The Diamond. The first market house had been constructed in The Diamond by 1625, however this was destroyed during the Siege of Derry (1688-89); a second market house was built on the site in 1692, the mannerist design of the building was by Francis Nevill, a civil engineer. The second market house housed the town’s assembly rooms and was utilised by Londonderry Corporation until 1823-26 when the market house was almost completely rebuilt at a cost of £5,500 and became Londonderry’s first purpose-built town hall. Londonderry’s first town hall, known locally as Corporation Hall, stood at The Diamond between 1823 and 1903, however by the end of the Victorian period the building was obsolete and Londonderry Corporation made a decision to move the Assembly to new premises to be built on reclaimed land adjacent to the newly completed Harbour Commissioners Office (1882 - see HB01/19/042). Despite the replacement of the former town hall with the Guildhall in 1887-90, Corporation Hall continued to stand in The Diamond until the end of the Edwardian period. In 1903 embers from the fire at Austin’s department store (see HB01/19/019) spread to the hall which was badly damaged in the ensuing blaze; the hall was repaired but due to its redundancy it was subsequently demolished in 1910 and became the site of the War Memorial (see HB01/19/021) in 1927 (UAHS, p. 22; Calley, pp 156-159). The reclaimed land on which the new hall was constructed was owned by The Honourable The Irish Society; the society gifted the land to Londonderry Corporation and, as a sign of gratitude, the Corporation decided to name the new hall the Guildhall in recognition of the connection between Londonderry and the London Guilds who had originally settled the town in the early-17th century. The foundation stone of the first Guildhall was laid in 1887. The design of the Guildhall was put to an architectural competition which was won by John Guy Ferguson (d. 1901) a local architect who had been the favoured designer of the Church of Ireland in the Diocese; Ferguson was also responsible for the original design of the Apprentice Boy’s Hall (see HB01/19/011) in 1873-77 and for the enlargement of St Columb’s Cathedral (HB01/19/001) in 1885-87. The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society records that the Colhoun Brothers were the builders who carried out the construction work which cost approximately £20,000. The completed Guildhall was completed and officially opened in 1890 (DIA; UAHS, p. 35). The first Guildhall was a Tudoresque edifice that stood in Shipquay Place between 1887 and 1908. The original hall possessed the same ground plan and layout as its successor, but photographs from the period show that the former building was less heavily ornamented; Ferguson’s clock tower has been carried on relatively unchanged, however the main gabled section of the original building did not possess the arcaded tracery windows, corner turrets and balcony that now characterises the façade of its replacement. The 144 feet tall clock tower was modelled on Big Ben in London, however the four-faced clock was not installed until 1891; it was built by the Scottish firm of James Ritchie & Co. And cost £456. The total rateable value of the Guildhall was set at £450 in 1890; the value of the building remained at this level by the cancellation of the Annual Revisions in 1931 despite the reconstruction of the Guildhall in 1909-12. On Easter Sunday 1908 the first Guildhall was severely damaged in a fire that left the building a burned out shell; Byrne and McMahon state that the blame for the fire was placed on the councillors who had neglected the fire services in the city and had failed to locate an adequate water source near the site of the Guildhall (Byrne & McMahon, p. 51). The reconstruction of the Guildhall commenced almost immediately after the rubble was cleared; in 1908 William Edward Pinkerton was selected to rebuild the town hall, however he lost the contract due to a row with Londonderry Corporation and Matthew Alexander Robinson was subsequently appointed. Robinson (1872-1929), a local architect who was appointed city surveyor in 1909, was also responsible for the design of Austin’s Department Store (HB01/19/019). Robinson retained Ferguson’s basic design and kept the Clock Tower unchanged, however the UAHS states that although ‘the Clock Tower and entrance remain, and the walls remain … it is the fenestration that is mostly changed, with the addition of bay windows and some battlemented parapets. The façade to Shipquay Place is most elaborate and one suspects that Ferguson’s design was more successful if only for its simpler treatment.’ Robinson utilised locally-quarried Barony Glen Sandstone in the masonry of the new Guildhall, employing Scottish Corsehill Sandstone as a secondary material; the builders contracted to rebuild the Guildhall were Henry Laverty & Sons. Having survived the 1908 fire relatively unscathed, the Clock Tower and its clock mechanism required minimal reconstruction work compared to the rest of the Guildhall and were subsequently repaired by 1912 (UAHS, p. 35; DIA; Natural Stone Database). The second Guildhall was reopened on 10th January 1912. The new Guildhall possessed a number of stained glass windows that were gifted by The Honourable The Irish Society; these were unveiled at the reopening ceremony and were designed by Campbell Brothers of Belfast (additional stained glass windows were installed within the Guildhall in 1913 and 1925). The original Guildhall Organ was built by Messrs Conacher of Huddersfield and had been installed in the Main Hall in 1891; it was the second largest organ in Ulster (the organ in the Ulster Hall in Belfast was larger) but was destroyed in the 1908 fire. A replacement organ, designed by Sir William Paratt, was installed in the new Main Hall in 1914; the accompanying organ case and surround was designed by the Guildhall’s architect, Matthew A. Robinson (Derry City Council website). The new Guildhall was valued at £1,500 under the First Revaluation of 1935, however by the end of the Second Revaluation (1956-72) this had been increased further to £2,215. The Guildhall was severely damaged for a second time in 1972 when two bombs exploded outside the building; the blast destroyed many of the original stained glass windows and damaged Paratt’s organ. Between 1972 and 1977 the Guildhall underwent a £1.25 million restoration programme which included the replacing of the stained glass windows (using the original watercolour paintings), the restoration of the exterior stonework, and the repairing of the organ (costing £68,000). The Guildhall was reopened for business in 1977, however it was not until 1984 that the building was fully reopened to the public (Derry City Council). The Guildhall was listed category A in 1976. Since the construction of the Derry City Council Offices on the Strand Road in the 1990s, the Guildhall is no longer utilised as the centre of local government in Londonderry, however the city’s elected representatives continue to meet in the City Council Chamber. The Guildhall recently underwent a £9.5 million renovation to specification by Consarc Design Group, completed in 2013, which involved the restoration of the exterior stonework, the roofs, glazing and the stained glass windows; the Guildhall Clock was also renovated as part of the project. The renovation to the inside of the building involved a complete reorganisation of the interior; the ground floor now includes a tourist information centre, exhibition area and café in order to recognise the Guildhall’s important role as one of Derry’s major tourist attractions, whilst a refurbishment of the Main Hall was carried out to make the building a better venue for events and conferences. The renovation and restoration received a 2014 RSUA award for Conservation and a 2014 RIBA Regional Award. During the restoration Derry City Council stated that ‘the transformation of the building will ensure the iconic status and cultural relevance of the Guildhall for generations to come [making] the building the key arrival and orientation hub for visitors to the city and further enhancing its role as the focal point and heart of city life’ (Derry City Council). References Primary Sources 1. PRONI VAL/12/E/157/1/10 – Annual Revisions Town Plan (c. 1873) 2. PRONI VAL/12/B/32/11V-11ZD – Annual Revisions (1885-1897) 3. PRONI VAL/12/B/33/2A-2F – Annual Revisions (1897-1931) 4. PRONI VAL/3/B/6/4 – First General Revaluation of Property in Northern Ireland (1935) 5. PRONI VAL/4/B/5/14 – Second General Revaluation of Property in Northern Ireland (1956-72) 6. Ulster Town Directories (1880-1943) 7. First Survey Record – HB01/19/038 (1970) 8. First Survey Image – HB01/19/038 (No Date) 9. NIEA HB Records – HB01/19/038 Secondary Sources 1. Byrne, A; McMahon, S., ‘Derry in old photographs’ Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 2003. 2. Calley, D., ‘City of Derry: An historical gazetteer to the buildings of Londonderry’ Belfast: Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, 2013. 3. Ferguson, W. S; Rowan, A. J; Tracey, J. J., ‘List of historic buildings, groups of buildings, areas of architectural importance in and near the city of Derry’ Belfast: Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, 1970. 4. Rowan, A. J., ‘The Buildings of Ireland: North West Ulster’ London: Yale University Press, 2003. Online Resources 1. Dictionary of Irish Architects - http://www.dia.ie/ 2. Natural Stone Database - http://www.stonedatabase.com//stone_types.cfm?stc=45 3. Derry City Council website - http://www.derrycity.gov.uk/Guildhall/GuildhallRestoration

Criteria for Listing

Architectural Interest

A. Style B. Proportion C. Ornamentation D. Plan Form H+. Alterations enhancing the building I. Quality and survival of Interior J. Setting

Historic Interest

V. Authorship W. Northern Ireland/International Interest Y. Social, Cultural or Economic Importance


Two-storey Victorian town hall of Gothic Revival design built c1887, rebuilt 1909-12, east of the City Walls, facing South East over urban square and overlooking the Foyle. The current building is attributed to M. A. Robinson, replacing the previous 1887 building designed by John Guy Ferguson which was reduced to a shell by fire in 1908. A Barony Glen sandstone building with large clock tower containing four-faced clock, it retained its precedents footprint and massing, with changed fenestration, addition of bay windows and some battlemented parapets. The exterior has retained much of its character, style and proportions. External additions have been carried out using sympathetic materials and the interior has been largely remodelled with the exception of the main hall which has mostly been retained. The Guildhall is of prime civic and historic importance, in a prominent landmark position on the banks of the Foyle.

General Comments

Additional listing criteria apply - R-Age, S-Authenticity & T-Historic Importance

Date of Survey

Tuesday, January 07, 2014